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Transnational Indian Diaspora Engagement and development ... ... Manoranjan Mohanty The University...

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    Transnational Indian Diaspora Engagement and development: The transilient Fiji-

    Indian diaspora engagement and assimilation in transnational space

    Manoranjan Mohanty

    The University of the South Pacific, Fiji

    Abstract

    The Indian immigrants or ‘girmitiyas’ under British indenture labour system have gradually transformed

    to Indian Diaspora in transnational space be it from Mauritius, British Guiana, Trinidad, South Africa,

    Fiji, Jamaica or Suriname. The onset of globalization has stimulated the contemporary diasporic

    movements and social and economic networking and in turn, a greater diasporic engagement... Cheaper

    means of communication and growth of mass media and ICT, have contributed much to diaspora

    movement across border, creating ‘transnational communities’, globally. Today, the diaspora has been

    emerged as a new resource and an agent of change and development. It has been a major source of

    remittance, investment, and human and social capital and has been emerging as an alternative

    development strategy. The role of diaspora in contemporary development of both country of origin and

    country of residence draws greater attention today than ever before.

    The ‘girmitiyas’ in Fiji that arrived between 1879-1916 have undergone generational changes, and

    gradually transformed to distinct Fijian-Indian Diaspora within Fiji and abroad. These ‘transient’ and

    ‘translient’ migrants, through a ‘double’ and ‘triple’ chain- migration have formed distinct transnational

    Fijian-Indian diaspora especially in the Pacific- Rim metropolitan countries such as Australia, New

    Zealand, Canada, and USA. They are deeply engaged in social, cultural and economic development and

    assimilated in transnational space. Bollywood films have helped binding Indian diaspora especially Fiji-

    Indians abroad who have maintained Indian cultural identity in the global space. The perspectives on

    diaspora engagement and development, and the Fiji-Indian diaspora engagement in transnational space,

    need to be fully understood.

    The paper examines the relationships and perspectives on migration-diaspora and development, and it

    explores the contemporary perspective focusing on Fiji girmitiyas’ transformation to transnational

    Fijian-Indian diaspora, and the nature of their engagement, and assimilation in transnational space,

    taking Australasia as a case in point.

    Key words: Development, diaspora engagement, Fijian Indian diaspora, girmitiyas, transnational

    space.

    1. Introduction

    Diaspora engagement is an important part of diaspora-development debate and it has emerged as

    a development-policy issue. Diaspora has emerged as a new resource and an agent of change and

    development. The role of diaspora in development of both country of origin and destination

    draws greater attention today than ever before. Diaspora has been a major source of remittance,

    investment, human and social capital. Besides, diaspora community provides humanitarian

    assistance during emergency natural disasters. The diaspora communities have diverse skills and

    resources that can leverage to promote change in their country of origin.

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    The onset of globalization has stimulated the contemporary diasporic movements and social and

    economic networking and in turn, greater diasporic engagement. Cheaper means of

    communication and growth of mass media and ICT have contributed much to movement of

    people across border, creating ‘transnational communities’, globally.

    There has been a marked shift in emphasis in Indian diaspora discourse from social and cultural

    dynamics of Girmitiyas towards use of diaspora resources (human, financial, social, and

    entrepreneurial) in development and their engagement as an alternative development strategy.

    Much of diaspora literature however, deal with perspectives of diaspora to development of home

    countries mainly through remittances but little work has been done on diaspora’s engagement in

    the host countries.

    The key questions are–What kind of diaspora engagement policies and development initiatives is

    needed? How to improve diaspora engagement for the development of country of origin and

    country of settlement?

    The relationships between migration, diaspora and development are critical in understanding

    diaspora formation and engagement and need to be fully explored.

    2. Migration, Diaspora and Development

    Migration and diaspora are closely linked to development. “The migrants of today are the

    Diaspora of tomorrow. While all Diasporas are products of migration, not all migrations make up a

    Diaspora (Skeldon, 1997). Migration through diaspora, establishes relationships between people

    and place. People maintain strong ties with their country of origin and assert their ethnic identities in the host country.

    Diaspora is a community of people who live outside the country of origin but maintain

    connections with it (Diaspora Alliance, n.d). Broadly, Diasporas are defined as “transnational

    communities of a particular kind, characterised by having experienced movement from an

    original homeland” (ibid.). The term “diasporas” convey the idea of transnational populations,

    living in one place, while still maintaining relations with their homelands (IOM, 2006). They

    maintain geo-ethnic group identity in host country. Diasporas are a kind of ethnic group, but not

    every ethnic group forms a diaspora, nor do all immigrations lead to formation of ethnic group

    (Sheffer, 2003, cited in Safran, Sahoo and Lal, 2009). People, place and identity are the

    cornerstones of diaspora discourse.

    The relationships between Diaspora and development are positive and mutually beneficial. The

    simple linear relationship between migration, diaspora and development is as follows:

    Migration  Diaspora formation Diaspora engagement  Development

    The primary or ‘pioneer’ migrants form a ‘primary diaspora’ and secondary migrants form a

    ‘secondary diaspora’. The secondary migration from a country of residence to another country

    and formation of a kind of ‘chain diaspora’ is a rapid ongoing process, forming ‘transnational’

    diaspora communities. Schiller, Basch and Blanc (1995) were first to use the concept of

    transnationalism to capture the dynamics of migration (cited in Sahoo and De Kruijf, 2014:6). In

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    the ‘diaspora’ literature, the terms such as ‘primary or ‘pioneer’ migrants’, ‘secondary migrants’,

    ‘trans-migrants, and ‘transilient migrants’ are commonly used. Primary or ‘pioneer’ migrants are

    those that migrate to a destination for the first time and transilient’ or secondary migrants refer to

    migrants who re-migrate to another country after primary migration. Due to globalisation and

    social networking, creation of transnational social space, a chain diaspora has been a rapid

    process.

    Since the early 1990s, there is recognition that the diaspora has propensity to create multiple

    associations and long-distance connections (Meyer, 2001). The diaspora has been seen as a

    ‘brain gain’ and it has replaced the classical emphasis of the ‘brain drain’ approach, which saw

    skilled migration as a permanent loss (Siddiqui and Tejada, 2014). The diaspora views skilled

    migrants as carriers of a ‘social capital’ that is to be organized and harnessed for development,

    and leading to the rise of a new agent in development discourse (Lowell and Gerova, 2004; De

    Haas, 2006; Katseli et al.,2006;Wickramasekara,2010;Weinar,2010;Tejada,2012, cited in

    Siddiqui and Tejada,2014).Johnson and Sedaca (2004) provide an account of diaspora-related

    development programmes looking at remittances, community development, diaspora business

    linkages, diaspora investment and knowledge transfers. Lowell and Gerova (2004) provide a

    valuable categorization of diaspora mechanisms, including “optimal brain strain, return

    migration, financial instruments, entrepreneurial investments, hometown associations,

    immigration and trade and professional diaspora networks”. Newland (2004) analyses the impact

    of diaspora inputs on poverty reduction and offers suggestions for donors to strengthen the

    impact of development assistance by making transnationalism an engine for development (Cited

    in IOM, 2006).

    3. Diaspora formation and Engagement

    The ‘migration-development nexus’ (Faist and Fauser, 2011) is critical in understanding diaspora

    engagement. Diaspora engagement depends upon the processes of migration and diaspora

    formation. The emigrant-homeland relationship that defines the concept of diaspora has shifted,

    and in order to understand and explain the nature of diaspora, it is necessary to examine the role

    of origin states in their formation and persistence (Gamlen, 2006). Much of diaspora formation

    and engagement depend upon the type of migration (forced or voluntary); nature of migration

    (permanent or temporary); migrants’ travel experience or ‘routes’; place of origin (peaceful or

    confl

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